Home Concepts Best Practices Head-Heart-Gut Approach to Coaching

Head-Heart-Gut Approach to Coaching

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Bottom line: head brain is creativity and making meaning; heart brain is compassion and processing emotions; and gut brain is courage and core identity. You may even have used the following phrases “use your head”, “listen to your heart”, and “have some guts” at one time or another, demonstrating that you are sub-consciously aware of each brain and it’s core competency.

What does this mean to me as a coach?

Alignment of these three brains, or coherence, is the optimal state in which heart, head, and gut are in synch. The heart and gut signal the head brain more than the head brain signals either of them.  What does this mean to coaches? A ‘flow’ state is created through the alignment/coherence where each brain is functioning at its efficient best. Gregory Stebbins proposes that this flow state is wisdom, defined as “an integration of head, heart and hunch [gut] tempered through the experience of the individual … a state of being that emerges from within the leader from the experience of integrating head, heart and hunch [gut].”3

“Coaching is customized to the coach, the person being coached, the context, and the specific conditions that led to its initiation.”5  Given that the coach and the person being coached each have three brains, and that alignment of these brains creates a ‘flow’ state, a holistic coaching approach is recommended. This calls for the coach and coachee to use all three brains or at least consider the input from each.

Begin with deep listening from your gut, heart, and head. For example, your coachee is sharing with you a work situation that involves a challenging assignment with a short deadline that may not be value-added. As coach you have a hunch that there is more to this situation (gut), you feel compassion for the exhaustion in her voice (heart), and note the elements of short dead- line for non-value-added task (head). You now have a choice to respond to one, two, or all three brains. An integrated response might be “I hear exhaustion in your voice (heart) at the challenge of this assignment (head) and yet I sense there is more going on here (gut).” Next, pause for the client to take this in each of her brains.

As you saw in our example, here’s summary of three brain, a.k.a. human connection, model: head works on logic such as facts, figures, data and other objective factors; heart is addressed through emotions such as feelings, touch, relationships and subjective factors; gut responds to instinct, intuition and other subtle and often unconscious clues and signals. As a coach, it is important to listen to messages or information all three sources are providing in order to best support your client.

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